Founded in 1985 by directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata and producer Toshio Suzuki, renowned Japanese animation film studio Studio Ghibli has created numerous animated feature films widely considered classics. From My Neighbor Totoro, whose titular character appears as a plush doll in Toy Story 3, to Spirited Away, which won an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2003, Studio Ghibli’s work has become a prominent fixture in pop culture. Let’s take a look at just a handful of the best movies from the studio’s peerless filmography.
On route to their new family home, 10-year-old Chihiro’s father makes a wrong turn. Wandering around, Chihiro’s parents stumble across a buffet of food – and begin digging in despite their daughter’s protests. When her parents transform into pigs, Chihiro dashes off and soon finds herself trapped in the world of the kami. Through the help of a mysterious boy, Chihiro gets a job at a bathhouse run by an evil witch, who may be able to turn her parents human again. Drawing heavily from Shinto-Buddhist folklore, Spirited Away features many kami and other Japanese folklore creatures throughout the movie. From its exquisite art direction to its fantastical characters to its rich and engaging story, the movie remains the pinnacle of Studio Ghibli’s filmography.
Porco Rosso is an Italian World War I fighter ace turned freelance bounty hunter, cursed with a spell that has turned his head into that of a pig’s. Based on Miyazaki’s watercolor manga Hikōtei Jidai, Porco Rosso is perhaps Miyazaki’s most overtly political film, containing a number of anti-Fascist quips such as “I'd much rather be a pig than a fascist,” alluding to the rise of fascism in Italy at that time. Despite the heavier themes, the movie is at its heart a comedic adventure story that marks a turning point in Miyazaki’s oeuvre – from carefree fairy tales like Kiki’s Delivery Service to more pensive titles like Princess Mononoke.
My Neighbors the Yamadas
Before his death in 2018, director Isao Takahata was, along with Miyazaki, one of the lead creatives behind Studio Ghibli’s success. Where Miyazaki’s films are often mythic and fantastical, many of Takahata’s most successful movies offered slice-of-life stories like Only Yesterday or dark reflections on the human cost of war in Grave of the Fireflies. My Neighbors the Yamadas is a more stylized take on this approach. Unlike most feature films, My Neighbors the Yamadas is made up of a series vignettes, depicting the everyday life of the Yamada family. Based on the yonkoma manga series Nono-chan by Hisaichi Ishii, the movie’s narrative style suits the source material. In turn, the art style is evocative of a comic strip. A comedic and poignant meditation on the ordinary.
What’d We Forget?
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